BBC donates £1.4m made from Diana interview to seven charities

Broadcaster pays out income from selling rights to Martin Bashir’s 1995 Panorama episode with the princess

The BBC has given £1.4m to charities associated with Diana, Princess of Wales, as the broadcaster continues to spend millions of pounds atoning for Martin Bashir’s interview with the royal.

The payout represents the total sum received by the BBC from selling the rights to the 1995 Panorama interview to other television channels around the world.

The money will be split between seven charities linked with Diana. They are the homeless charity Centrepoint, English National Ballet, Great Ormond Street hospital children’s charity, the Leprosy Mission, National Aids Trust, the Royal Marsden cancer charity, and the Diana Award.

Although Bashir’s interview was originally hailed as a global scoop, around the time of its 25th anniversary in 2020 it was the subject of a reappraisal by journalists at Channel 4 and the BBC. These investigations revealed how Bashir had used deceitful methods to gain access to Diana, including forged documents.

The journalist also allegedly spread smears against individuals close to the princess, which helped convince her she could not trust people around her.

Tim Davie, the BBC director general, has previously apologised for the “deceitful tactics” used by the corporation in pursuit of its interview.

He said: “Had we done our job properly Princess Diana would have known the truth during her lifetime. We let her, the royal family and our audiences down … I have decided that the BBC will never show the programme again; nor will we license it in whole or part to other broadcasters.”

The BBC has paid out millions of pounds in legal fees and damages to individuals affected by the interview, while the former BBC director general Tony Hall – who was implicated in the 1995 cover-up – lost his new position as chair of the National Gallery as a result of the scandal.

The BBC’s payout to charities was promised following the former high court judge Lord Dyson’s report into Bashir’s interview. The BBC said the money would come from the corporation’s for-profit arm rather than licence fee income. However, a payout at the BBC’s commercial arm ultimately means there is less money available to fund the BBC’s core public service operation.

People who have recently received payouts as a result of Bashir’s interview include the former royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke, who was the subject of false allegations she had an affair with Prince Charles. Others who have received substantial damages include the graphic designer Matt Wiessler, who was blacklisted from the BBC after being asked to make false bank statements by Bashir. Diana’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson received a substantial sum that he has donated to charity, and the BBC made a separate donation to charity by way of apology to the royal family.

The corporation is optimistic that the aftermath of the scandal will soon be over. A spokesperson said: “The BBC had indicated its intention to donate to charity the sales proceeds derived from the 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales. The BBC has now done so. Given the findings of Lord Dyson, we think this is the right and appropriate course of action.”


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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